FirstFT: US concerned Beijing could be emboldened by Russian aggression

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The White House has sent a high-level delegation of former officials to Taiwan to send a message of reassurance and to remind China not to step up pressure on Taipei while the US is focused on the war in Ukraine.

Michael Mullen, former chair of the US joint chiefs of staff, is leading the delegation, which includes Michèle Flournoy, a former top Pentagon official, according to two people familiar with the situation. In addition to the show of support for Taipei, the delegation will urge Taiwan to intensify long-needed efforts to bolster its own defenses.

The decision to send a delegation comes amid concerns that Beijing might be emboldened by Russian aggression and attempt to take advantage of the American focus on Ukraine to boost pressure on Taiwan, over which China claims sovereignty.

Indeed, global attention remains largely on Ukraine, where Russian forces have launched a heavy bombardment of Kharkiv. The assault overshadowed the first direct talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials since President Vladimir Putin began his invasion five days ago.

Moscow’s artillery barrage on Ukraine’s second-largest city is a gruesome escalation of tactics, and analysts warned it may only be a foretaste of worse to come.

Meanwhile in Russia, the impact of unprecedented western sanctions is hitting the economy. Russia’s central bank more than doubled interest rates yesterday in an attempt to steady financial markets, after the ruble tumbled as much as 29 per cent.

Line chart of exchange rate against US dollar showing ruble tumbles to record low

Follow the latest developments on our live blog and track the conflict in maps.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. To keep up to date with all that’s happening in Ukraine, sign up here to receive my colleague Valentina Pop’s essential newsletter, Europe Express – Emily

Toyota to shut down Japanese plants after cyber attack The world’s largest carmaker will shut down all of its plants across Japan and the factories of two subsidiaries Hino and Daihatsu after a suspected cyber attack on one of the carmaker’s largest parts suppliers.

2. Climate change risks are greater than thought, warns IPCC report The world has a “brief and rapidly closing” window to adapt to climate change, with the risks associated with lower levels of warming greater than previously thought, the latest installment of a landmark UN report signed off by 270 scientists from 67 countries has concluded.

3. Turkish opposition presents pact to defeat Erdogan Six Turkish opposition parties pledged to overhaul the country’s electoral laws and institutions as they signed an “historic” pact aimed at bringing an end to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s almost two decades in power.

Tycoon Richard Li’s FWD files for $ 1bn Hong Kong IPO FWD, the Asian insurer founded by a son of property tycoon Li Ka-shing, has filed for a Hong Kong initial public offering that aims to raise at least $ 1bn after its attempt to list on Wall Street came under intense scrutiny from US regulators last year.

5. Australian cities under water after ‘rain bomb’ strikes Devastating floods have submerged cities and towns in Queensland and New South Wales, triggering thousands of insurance claims and stoking criticism of the Australian government’s stance on climate change.

Residents evacuate after flooding in Lismore, northeastern New South Wales.

Residents evacuate after flooding in Lismore, northeastern New South Wales. The extreme weather has claimed seven lives and flooded 18,000 homes so far © JASON O’BRIEN / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

Coronavirus digest

  • Cadavers are piling up at Hong Kong’s hospitals and public mortuaries as the number of Covid-19 cases soars in the territory.

  • Three in 10 respondents agreed that surveillance at work had increased during Covid, according to a survey from the UK’s largest federation of trade unions.

  • EU pandemic strategy tries to bridge drug companies and civil society as the industry believes Covid response has shown innovation at its finest, but activists decry failure to provide equal access to vaccines.

The day ahead

The Reserve Bank of Australia meets The central bank is expected to hold rates at its monthly meeting. Economists expect the RBA to hike interest rates during the third quarter, according to a Reuters poll of economists. (Reuters)

Earnings Results are expected from companies including Bayer, Baidu and Man Group. See our full list here.

Indonesia CPI data February consumer price index data is due today. In January, Indonesia inflation rose to the highest level in nearly two years. Explore inflation rates around the world with our inflation tracker.

What else we’re reading

The best bet for the 2020s is short tech, long commodities Silicon Valley manias tend to lose steam when investors realize they have been pouring money into unprofitable ideas, writes Ruchir Sharma, chair of Rockefeller International. And historically, tech and commodities follow opposite cycles.

How a Brazilian crime syndicate built a global drug empire Founded as a prison brotherhood 30 years ago in São Paulo, the Primeiro Comando da Capital, or First Capital Command, has evolved into a multinational mafia, with a revenue stream that generates upwards of $ 500mn every year, according to state prosecutors. Here’s how they did it.

Donald Trump’s accounts may hold him to account The former US president must be feeling more than usually unassailable, after seeing off two impeachments and a special counsel investigation. But despite his love of bombast, Trump’s legal woes are far from over, writes our editorial board.

Top tech for the trip to work – and back again Headed back to the office? Here are our top picks of gear worth splurging on to make your commute more enjoyable. From headphones to bicycles, mugs and more.

Food and drink

From New York to Tokyo, Berlin to Melbourne and beyond, here are FT writers’ picks of the best independent coffee shops in the world. What’s your favorite coffee shop in your city? Tell us at and we may feature your response.

© Bonanza | Bonanza Coffee Roasters, Berlin

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